The acquisition of lexical and grammatical aspect in Chinese

Ping Li, Melissa Bowerman

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    41 Scopus citations

    Abstract

    This study reports three experiments on how children learning Mandarin Chinese comprehend and use aspect markers. These experiments examine the role of lexical aspect in children's acquisition of grammatical aspect. Results provide converging evidence for children's early sensitivity to (1) the association between atelic verbs and the imperfective aspect markers zai, -zhe, and -ne, and (2) the association between telic verbs and the perfective aspect marker -le. Children did not show a sensitivity in their use or understanding of aspect markers to the difference between stative and activity verbs or between semelfactive and activity verbs. These results are consistent with Slobin's (1985) basic child grammar hypothesis that the contrast between process and result is important in children's early acquisition of temporal morphology. In contrast, they are inconsistent with Bickerton's (1981, 1984) language bioprogram hypothesis that the distinctions between state and process and between punctual and nonpunctual are preprogrammed into language learners. We suggest new ways of looking at the results in the light of recent probabilistic hypotheses that emphasize the role of input, prototypes and connectionist representations.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)311-350
    Number of pages40
    JournalFirst Language
    Volume18
    Issue number54
    DOIs
    StatePublished - 1998

    All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

    • Language and Linguistics
    • Education
    • Linguistics and Language

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